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Reading the human mind: reflecting on a FutureLearn MOOC

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 5 Jan 2015, 17:24

Fig. 1. How the six-eight year old me thought a farmhouse in the Ypres Salient looked like during the First World War in October 1917

For 45 years I have dwelt on how the images in my head associated with stories my grandfather told me about the First World War changed from those of a six year old, to an eleven year old, through my thirties and forties ... my childhood conception of the imained world depended on the little I had personally seen and experienced. When my grandfather spoke of keeping his machine gun in a pillbox pointing at a farmhouse held by 'Jerry' For three days I at first pictured an intact farm building, the kind I often saw in a rolling and lush Northumbrian landscape, with the heavy stone walls and full deciduous trees I knew from being driven down bouncy country lanes north east of Alnwick heading for Chathill and our fisherman's holiday cottage in Beadnell. The pillbox in my imagination would have had to been like those left from the Second World War on the beach that my brother and I played in - and used as a urinal. Age eleven a few ghastly black and white pictures from the First War and the title sequence from the BBC Series 'The Great War' coloured my imagination: it added a soundtrack, skulls and broken trees, but not the scale, nor the mud, not the rain, the cold, thirst and hunger. Although he could mimmick every shell the sound effects my grandfather made could never get close to the terrifying sound os something large and dangerous approaching and then the almighty bang that followed.

In my twenties I got to the Ypres Salient in summer: it was dry, a new autoroute split and the noise of traffic created a barrier. Several TV efforts at recreating the war failed, not least as my thoughts expended to take in the thoughts of a what it meant to be a young man in those conditions, that you were in and out for a bout of two or three days. The rest of the time if not on fatigues or carrying parties you were looking for things to do.

Only now, thoroughly immersed in hundreds of currated photographs and having looked on destroyed, wet massively scarred landscapes from open mining, having smelt rotting flesh - not human, but a dead sheep several days gone, am I starting to develop a true image. With teenage children of my own it is too easy to imagine the horror of sending them to war. Images of what happens to a body when hit by shrapnel or bullets, or blown apart by shells are readily available. There is little left for my imagination to do, other than to see another drama reconstruction and feel that nothing has done it better than 'All Quiet on the Western Front.' It looks dated, somehow caught in the early 1970s when it was finally made, but 'Johnny Got His Gun' leaves you with the desired sense of hopelessness, horrror and despair that one ought to have.

Fig 2. As it was. The dead behind a stone wall. The very same image my grandfather had while he sat it out in the remains of a recently captured 'Jerry' strongpoint.

75 years after leaving that pillbox with two friends burried my 96 year old grandfather broke down: telling his stories as stories had been his escape from it, but back on the same soil, at the very spot with the light and low landscape just as it had been it once again had become horribly real. He withered away after that as if the reality of the war brought home to him made him whither from the inside out.

For all this 'Jerry' to me is still a black cartoon cat and the 'Hun' something barbaric from the fall of the Romans as a drawing in a Ladybird book. We are our own film directors when it comes to reading; an author is a catalyst to our thoughts that can conjure up anything - which, in part, is the fun of it. We inhabit a world of our own in the orchestra of our minds, the author the composer, as readers we conduct, as listeners or viewers the director injects a piece of their own mind.

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Review, Reflect, Repeat ...

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 4 Jan 2015, 09:05

Fig.1. My mash-up from the Start Writing Fiction, OU and FutureLearn MOOC. 

Many weeks after the Open University MOOC on Future Learn closed 'Start Writing Fiction' I find I am returning to the many activities across the eight weeks to refresh, reflect, and build on my knowledge. As well as doing my bit for that 'community' by doing a few reviews (all assignments are peer reviewed). I completed the course in early December.

I return to reflect, to develop ideas, to be reminded of the excellent lessons I have learnt there, and in particular on how we use fact and fiction, whether consciously or not. In pure fantasy writing I find, inevitably, that I ground events in places I know from my youth, or have since researched. I use the hook of reality and my experiences on which to build the fiction. While currently I am embedded in what started as 90/10 fiction to fact I find it is increasingly looking like 95/5 in favour of fact as my imagination is close to the truth about a particular character and his experience of the First World War. All this from a simple exercise in week one called 'Fact or Fiction?' where we are asked first of all two write something that contains three factual elements and one fiction, and then to write something that contains three fictional elements and one factual. There are thousands of these now, many very funny, original or captivating. In week one, I'm guessing that around 10,000 got through the week. How many posted? There are 967 comments. This happens. It is an open course. The same applies for most web content: 95:5 is the ratio of readers to writers. Many people prefer not to do what they feel is 'exposing themselves' online. Why should they.

Anyway, this gives me reason to argue that it is an excellent idea to keep a blog of your OU studies. All of this can remain private, but at least, as I know have in this blog, when the doors close behind a module you can, months, even years later, return to key activities and assignments and build on the lessons you learnt. More importantly, as we all forget with such ease, we can keep the memory of the lessons fresh.

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What will you look and sound like twenty years from now?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 3 Jan 2015, 14:08

Fig.1 JV 2013-2033 - from one niece's wedding.

We'll see. My father died young age 71 so I'm less sure I'll make it to 73. Then again my grandfather made it to 96 ... the other to 61 or something. 

I stumbled upon this link courtesy of a fellow OU Student on my very first MAODE module way back in 2010. We're still in touch. It's a fun App from Orange. Take a current grab using a webcam or use an old photo. It generates an Avatar that will then respond to your talking to texting it. Weird.

I've found that if it 'grabs' the image first time it works. What does not work is massively adjusting the settings with an image that gave a bad fit in the first place.

 

 Fig.2. JFV 2014 - 2013 from another niece's wedding. 

And yes, I've already tried old photos of me in my twenties to see how accurate it is and put in friends to see what it does to them. I've had me speaking fluent French too - easier than continuing with L120.

In 20 years time

http://oran.ge/1I4Vjs0 

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A writer's idyll. Beadnell Bay, Northumberland

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 1 Jan 2015, 09:30

Fig.1 The old fishermen's harbour, the 18th century lime kilns and a late December sunrise over the North Sea.

The sun coming up over Beadnell harbour, the lime kilns on the left, Dunstanburgh Castle in the far distance, sand dunes at my back a two mile beach walk to the river 'the long nanny' to my right. 

Fig.2. The iconic 'Beach Court' B nB - owned by a member of Showaddywaddy by the way ... 

A light frost on the seaweed and sand, our dog wondering why I've stopped in the middle distance. Several days with the waves, the views, the fresh air ... and bonkers relations who like to take a quick dip in the sea at this time of year! Not even the dog is that daft. The two mile walk to 'The Long Nanny' and the footbridge over the river is glorious as the tide goes out. 

What's this got to do with learning? Everything.

Time to reflect. Time to look back to my years running around here as a child the parents and grandparents, the uncles and great uncles and aunts all long gone. And from time to time there's a little bit of history to take in:

Fig.3. Ebb's Nook, looking out across the point over the North Sea many hundreds of years ago. 

We're looking for a spot to scatter my late grandfather's ashes. He came up here and stayed in a house behind Beach Court in the 40s and 50s until his daughter bought a cottage here and we spent our childhood here in the 60s.  

Fig.4 The Point, Beadnell at dawn. Volcanic rock poking into the North Sea. 

I can sit here for hours happily writing, drawing and taking pictures. I have my 'writer's notebook' as the OU Start Writing Fiction MOOC course recommended. I make notes about a talking lump sucker fish I once scooped out of a deep pool at low tide and took home in a large red bucket.

On the horizon there are now the occasional massive cargo carriers, just as I see back at home looking across the English Channel at Seaford Head. To the south the silhouette of Dunstanburgh Castle is a coastal landmark. To the north the Farne Islands are easy to pick out as the Longstone lighthouse flashes.

Happy New Year!

Does the Open University do a module on oceanography? 

REFERENCE

Historic Environment Survey for the National Trust Properties on the Northumberland Coast. Beadnell Limekilns and the Links. 

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Sunrise on the Point, Beadnell, Northumberland

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 1 Jan 2015, 12:13

ONE

TWO

THREE

FOUR

Why is the way the sun starts and ends the day such a special moment? This last week, wherever I have been up and down and across England the sunrise and sunsets have been fabulous. From the point on Beadnell Bay on the northern edge of the Northumberland coast, to the Cotswolds and home on the south Sussex coast.

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The waves off Beadnell Point, Northumberland,

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 4 Jan 2015, 16:25

ONE

TWO

THREE

FOUR

FIVE

SEVEN

EIGHT

NINE

TEN 

 ELEVEN

TWELVE

THIRTEEN

FOURTEEN

FIFTEEN 

SIXTEEN 

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Obscure First World War Memorials: Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 5 Jan 2015, 16:55

The War Memorial below the cliffs of Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland

ONE

TWO 

 

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Lindisfarne, Northumberland from the beach at Bamburgh

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 5 Jan 2015, 16:53

ONE: Lindisfarne from Bamburgh Beach, late December 2014

TWO

 

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Recollections and connections with Chinese Management Students

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 31 Dec 2014, 10:26

Fig.1 A lumpsucker fish

My fellow student Sian Lovegrove on the MAODE is an educator at a Chinese Management School.

Last year we did on a module on networking and connectivity related to e-learning - how collaboration and ‘connectedness’ is such a good thing. Some 30 of her students have since started blog. It was with trepidation that I have started to read these and what I find is a wonderfully eclectic mix of Chinese voices, always quirky in their use of English and as varied in what they write about as you’d expect from any group: food, western ways, movies and musicians, immigration, recently local ways, on being a student … often familiar, always insightful.

Air Pollution in Shanghai

I have often  thought how much I'd like to live and work in China for a few years, unfortunately my breathing is very sensitive to poor air. I have asthma. I am fit. I sail, I swim, but I also take medication all the time so that I don't have an asthma attack which can easily be set off by car fumes, smoke from fires, even cigarette smoke, some perfumes ... and very odd, the smell and chemicals that comes from autumn leaves. This is why I like to live by the sea facing the wind. I am fascinated to read about life in different country, especially one as fascinating as China. Reading this blog I am reminded also how much we have in common - people who love life and love our planet too. 

There were several posts on:

Christmas seen for Chinese eyes, on Chinese compared to Western Food and on student life.

I was inspired to settled down to an hour of writing thanks to a delightful post on 'Maternal Love' where a student's Mom sends a 'nanny' - aunt or family friend, to live with her student daughter and cook meals and clean for her. 

I found myself reflecting on our own few days in Northumberland and remembering how I once pulled a lumpsucker fish out of a tidal pool: I was seven or eight and didn't know better to leave these things where they were. I pulled out a large eating crab another time, even a lobster. 

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Beadnell remembered ...

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 29 Dec 2014, 11:53

Fig.1 Dunstanburgh Castle from Beadnell Bay at dusk this morning

Fig.2 The tide coming in across The Point, Beadnell at sun up.

Fig.3 Something I never knew about The Point where I played as a child. 

Fig.4 The sea pushing in through fissures between the rocks and pools

Fig.5. The low cliffs, fingers of rock and pools where I scrambled.

Fig.6 A drain that intrigued me age 5, or 6 or 7. In a storm the waves came up through it. 

This was my playground until the age of 11 or 12. Easter, Summer and even half-term and weekends were spent here. Just two walks forty years later and the smell of wet sand in the dunes takes me back to being a boy - easy to scrambled around the dunes when you are seven. The rocks, the different textures under foot, the mesmerising waves that approached closer along the rocks as the tide came in, the birds and occasional seal, the Longstone Lighthouse always flashing its presence in the distance.

The foghorn lulled me to sleep. The noise of waves constantly crashing on the rocks changes from the loud chatting of people before the curtain goes up, to a jet coming into land ... it rumbles gently, or angrily according to its mood (and yours).

Yesterday I had the briefest of conversations with someone who had a deep Northumbrian accent that sounds like Norweigian spoken with an English accent. 

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Memory is an amazing thing ...

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From E-Learning VI

Fig.1. The gate across the fields from Beadnell Beach to the Village

Age six or seven I passed through these gates and someone told me it was a 'kissing gate' and we had to kiss. She was 18 maybe a little older. I would have been with other children, a brother or a friend the same age. These have been, ever since, a 'kissing gate'. I've never taken this path in over forty years, but it came to me as I approached. 

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Manage your money: OU MOOC 5Jan2015

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From E-Learning VI

Manage your money

There are ten tips on how to manage your money over Christmas - Christmas 2015? This would have been handy a week ago. I race around shops as they close on Christmas Eve.

This looks very useful all the same: life skills rather than academic lesrning or accountancy. See you there. I need to save up for 'Creative Writing' from October 2015.

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Trauma and Memory: another brilliwnt MOOC from the OU

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From E-Learning VI

Chaired by the OU's Prof. Annika Mombauer this MOOC complements anything you may read on WW1.

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Happy Christmas my OU blogging lovelies.

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 25 Dec 2014, 20:56
From E-Learning VI

Start Writing Fiction

#FLfiction14

@OUFreeLearning

Happy Christmas my OU blogging lovelies. I have chains in the car boot as we head for Northumberland: unnecessary I hope. Looking forward to a year punctuated by further learning with FutureLearn while saving for a creative writing course with the OU late in 2015,

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This is not all! A lot of its is on A 363 Website *

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From E-Learning V

Fig.1 Second hand 'used' book on creative writing

After eight weeks I recently slid from the end of the OU and FutureLearn MOOC 'Start Writing Fiction' and felt bereft. There is a Facebook group, a Linkedin group and a blog ... all set up by us students. The links sadly to the OU are the kind where you a dropped into the centre of a labyrinth with no idea of where to turn, and no one to talk to. 

Anyway. I was particularly delighted that the previous owner of this book has added the note onto the cover 'This is not all! A lot of it is on A 363 website*' which is where I will potentially pick up my OU studies in ten months time. '

Meanwhile I have three more MOOCs with FutureLearn. 

*A363 Advance Creative Writing

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Imagine if these had caught on

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From E-Learning V
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Why I'm selling my books

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 22 Dec 2014, 13:11
From E-Learning V

Fig.1 Learn How to Study .... I did!

Buying books can be an obsession. Unnecessary too where I have access to a university library up the road, but I do anyway. Books that are long out of print 100, 75 years old. I like chasing down the obscure reference. When I finally read the passage an author, usually an academic has written, I do that thing politicians say about 'quoting out of context'. It is surprising how one's own interpretation of what someone has said can be very different. 

I understand that having read a book we keep them as an aide memoire, not even to thumb through, but to see them on the shelf and so be reminded of the joy we got from them. Do I ever get from that an academic text? Not often. I take copious notes as I read them. I now have a photo of the cover and that is in my Google+ gallery.

From E-Learning V

 

What more do I need?

Courtesy of a specialist local books shop, AbeBooks, Amazon and eBay I'm selling everything. A box of 30 books went to someone studying the MA in History I've been doing. This morning I dropped off four books at the Post Office. Having never used any online service to sell anything I am delighted at how easy it has been to turn the dining room table into a bookshop! Much to my wife's despair there are ten large 'really useful boxes' stacked around the place. ISBN number, get what its selling for, add a handful of photos, post an honest appraisal of the books condition - mostly pristine, one or two I took ownership of with a highlighter pen - not that that has prevented a sale. The content is sound. I'm honest about the things condition.

From E-Learning V

Fig. 2. Learn How to Study - with books!

The oddest thing is to find that sometimes a ten or twenty year old academic paperback sells for more than it cost all those years ago. For example, which says something for the OU, Derek Rowntree's 'Learn How to Study' from 1990. This may not mention online learning, and adds a very short chapter at the end on wordprocessing, but the lessons and tips he passes on are as relevant and as sound to a student planning distance learning as ever it was.

No value in an eBook on a Kindle then?

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Things I love online

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From E-Learning V

Fig.1 Thesaurus.com 

Need to find the right word? This is the place to look.

 

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What's your favourite remote HD webcam view?

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From Alps

Fig.1 Late yesterday afternoon looking north.

Looking north towards the Aiguille de la Grande Sassiere 3380m from ten miles south at Tovierer, 2700m above Tignes Le Lac, French Alps. 16h40 Friday 19th December 2014

I'm at home in Lewes. I've not been up here for nearly 25 years, though I have watched over the alps for nearly a year courtesy of a set of HD Webcams. Is it like being there to follow the seasons? To witness the first snow. To see the grass turn green? To follow the weather?

Do you have a favourite webcam you watch? Birds nesting for Spring Watch? A beach? Your garden?!

 

 

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Time to reflect on 'Start Writing Fiction' with the OU and FutureLearn

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 19 Dec 2014, 09:33
From E-Learning V

Fig.1. The writer's path ...

The eight week Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) I have just completed 'Start Writing Fiction', with the OU, through FutureLearn merits, like all learning experiences, a period of reflection. How do you look through posts across some 80-100 'threads' with anything from 143 posts (final thread, final week) to over 7,500 posts (fourth thread, first week) ? You have to filter, but these filters are dependent on your participation throughout because the key filters are: 'my comments' and 'following'. These in turn, isolate from a massive thread, the comments you have left, starting a thread to the main discussion or commenting on points made by others. While 'following' picks out those, all of them, whose thoughts and contributions you have enjoyed. You can also pick out 'most liked' - though with likes ranging from 0-4 with 1 like the median, this sift hasn't anything to offer. And you can prioritise 'Activity' i.e. select in reverse order across all posts in an activity those that are most recent.

Thus armed, if you can give it the time, you can work back over the battlefield of minds that has been this last two months; it feels like a 60 degree credits 7-8 month slog packed into a very, very long weekend - it has been that intense (I've let it be so).

Whilst the activities could be done in three hours a week at a fast jog, what takes far longer is a) writing a piece for peer review - 300, 500 and 1000 words were the lengths of submission and b) reading, replying, following and learning from the mass off comments in what are sometimes huge discussion threads with thousands of responses where some of have skipped through the entire 8 weeks course in a few weeks, and others, like climbing onto a moving walkway, are still, just joining. 

I can write 1,500 words in an hour. However, 500 from a day of writing, takes ... all day. And it is generally this 500 which is worthy of keeping and could lead to publication.  I have learnt the value of reviewing the work of others - all standards (I've been at all standards and can migrate with ease between them). I am reading fiction strategically -I did this with efforts to write TV series and Film scripts (I have a writer/director credit for a short film on Channel 4). It is so useful, as you get a feel for the genre you are writing, to read some of the very best in that genre. It makes sense really. How have other authors successfully tackled time-travel, war, fairies ... horror, romance or sex. And then writing itself. Setting time aside, focusing on that for hours uninterrupted to give you creative side a chance to come out. And then, from that, edit ruthless to those ideas, phrases, descriptions and characters that meet a set of criteria. It's tough. If it wasn't everyone would be a published author.

I may forget to take my phone with me, but when I go anywhere I have an A6 size notebook and pen. Like Louis de Bernieres I take a bath and use this time to read fiction! No iPad. Fewer showers. Currently reading 'The Time Traveller's Wife' and 'Never Ending Story'. 

When I get up, very early, I flick over two hourglasses: one is 30 minutes, the other an hour. I like the 'reward' of getting 30 minutes in. I may forget where time is going after an hour or so. 2,000 words a day ought to be about right. Less happens. More happens. Then the rest of the day takes over - often until the early hours of the following morning. I read over a few pages before I go to sleep and sometimes the Muse rewards me in the early hours ... or torments, or deserts me. 

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Learning how to assess - not an AL

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 17 Dec 2014, 19:35
From E-Learning V

 

I'm doing my learning with The OU, but on another platform. I'm emerging from an extraordinary eight weeks on the 'Start Writing Fiction' MOOC on FutureLearn. This draws upon the 'Start Writing Fiction' OpenLearn content and on the various BA and MA Creative Writing courses from The OU.

What's worth reflecting upon as a person who has taken this journey is the nature of the learning process in a highly charged, collaborative and 'massive' environment, the community self-help spirit that is engendered, partly by its being free and open, but also because scale means that that percentage of people who are contributory and giving is large enough to make an impact. And finally, as a learning experience - have I learnt something? Does it 'change behaviours' ? which is the ultimate test of learning - you come out changed.

The course is about creative writing, with the emphasis in a few hours a week on one thing only: characterisation. 

I've taken the view that even if I finished the course a week ago, that it is still term time so I have a duty to stick around. As well as carefully going back through all seven weeks so far I have now done 16 reviews. The reward is always two way.

In this instance I see in every writer ways I'd like to get it right, as well as ways that I too need to stop getting it wrong. An hour spent on a review is typical, though not always possible if either the piece is brilliant and a greater joy each time I read it, or because the piece struggles to reveal that the author has taken part or taken in much at all from the last seven weeks. The reviewer cannot relive the course pointing these things out that have been missed. Perhaps this is the difference between me and a professional tutor or lecture marking an assignment and given constructive feedback. 

Even amongst thousands you get to recognise a hundred or so people who are active in the discussion groups, desperate to put right what they are getting wrong and willing to try anything - I'm in that category and can truthfully say that my writing has been changed for the better, forever. I hope with these reviews that I am able to put back in a fraction of what I have been able to take out. From the learning perspective my behaviour has been changed. I know that writing is 20% of the task, so now I bash on with it as fast as I can ... as the real job, the 80% is the edit. Maybe with experience the balance will shift a bit. More 30% to 70% as I get things right first time. 

There's a discussion about how reviews are shared out. The system has to be automated. I believe the participation at the start of the MOOC was 20,000 and has gone up to 23,000 even 25,000. I know that stats so an exponential decline (is that the right term) sees 50% never even start and another 50% drop out after weeks one or two. Under 10% complete, possibly under 6%.

Reviews of work cannot and are not carried out by ALs. The cost would be astronomic and it would take years. Instead we rely on peer review. Over the eight weeks, beautifully choreographed (learning design) there was been a review of a 250 word piece, then a 500 word piece ... and now the equivalent of our EMA and a 1000 word piece. Without exception people are finally understanding that 1000 words means exactly that. People had the ignorance, arrogance or temerity to post 2,500 word pieces in the firs assignment. Some ignore the course, but wanted people to review their brilliance sad This is what occurs on an open platform. 

Regarding these pieces occasional requests have been made to have all of these on public view so that we could pick and choose the pieces to review. It would be quite wrong though to reveal what can be a sensitive and personal exchange between author and reviewer in a very vulnerable moment. It would, as I've seen in open 'classes' turn into a bit of a bun fight where, in the worst instances, like in the playground, you get people applauding one author and ridiculing another ... or simply join in on the back of what others have said. i.e. the learning experience is thwarted, even abused. It matters that the reviewer knows that their own words matter, without being influenced by what others have written. That said, some reviewers take a cavalier approach saying they don't like a thing, and then saying no more. If that is a student's only review received you can well understand their frustration. Even with the numbers involved somehow these pieces need to be returned and churned through the system, ideally until three to six reviews are received each. More work needs to be done to help students do reviews too so that they feel confident about doing so.

What we all benefit from this process is both learning to review, and learning to receive feedback.

The recommendation I make to everyone is to keep reviewing until you become good at it. If and when you can master reviewing, then you will be in a far better position to fairly review and edit your own work - a lesson that has finally sunk in. Writing is easy, the fun part. Jazz writing I call it. Top of the head stuff. The editing is the pain that crafts a piece so that others can enjoy it too. This pain is reduced the better you get at it.

What's revealing here is, as I've seen in the reviews, is that there are pieces that suggest that the author hasn't learnt anything at all from the course. I cannot make that assumption, so I review on the basis that it is genuine. From a formal assessment point of view, as I've learnt as a student with The OU for four years, is that a tutor looks for repeated indications that the student is using what they should have learnt from the course - if that is not present then alarm bells should ring. How can I give them points?

The problem of course in a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) is that those who don't do the this task properly are especially taking away from genuine participants who want several considered reviews in return. Only if we get perhaps three or more reviews each will the 1 in 3 'non-review' be cancelled out.

Of 12 pieces I have come to expect 2 excellent and 2 ... how can I put it politely other than to say 'dire'. I'm not to know why this is, I can only judge what I have to review and have in mind the brief and the content of the course over the last seven weeks. Do some people paste in something they wrote months ago that has no bearing at all on the course? It seems that way. Might someone post in a piece that has been published, that is on brief? That is possible too. Of the remaining eight pieces these tend to be where errors and corrections based on the lessons of the course are most easy to make. It takes time. Time and focus. I admire those tutors, here and elsewhere who so clearly have gone to such lengths. Decades after the event I see lengthy comments on pieces for A levels from teachers who were clearly putting in a huge amount of work ... with no word limit on essays too.

In contrast, though not from The OU, I have had reviews of work that were laughable - one may have muddled me up with another student, while the other might have been written in the pub over a pint. One I made a polite complaint, gained 10 points and a distinction. The other I am about to challenge as this 'pub' idea might be close to the truth. And they are paid to assess a piece. In this instance the criticism over my missing a key point is unfounded as I make the required point a) in the introduction b) in the conclusion and c) developed the idea in the main body of the essay. Their comment, 'looks rushed' - which to my sensibilities is an indication of exactly how the tutor behaved - they are the one who were in a rush. 

Students need to be put on a confidence building exercise as they start university so that they feel, as fee payers, able to 'complain' without being stonewalled. This is another theme, but fee-paying students should and will change the attitude of institutions to their fee paying clients, rather than students on a grant-based 'freebie'.

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An exploration of the MOOC

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 17 Dec 2014, 19:37
From E-Learning V

Fig.1. My mash-up of a correct answer to a quiz in the FutureLearn course from the University of Nottingham 'How to read a mind' that ties in directly to The OU course on the same platform 'Start Writing Fiction'.

As these MOOCs complete I have a few weeks over Christmas to reflect on a busy year of Moocing about and to catch up with regular coursework on L120, assisted with a necessary business visit to France.

My MOOCing is enjoyed all the more while reading Martin Weller's new book that covers MOOCs, 'The Battle for Open'. These are interesting times indeed.

With friends yesterday I evangelised about MOOCs on FutureLearn and found that what worked was to describe a MOOC in layman's terms as the equivalent of a hefty, hardback, coffee-table book you buy because you have an interest in a thing. Let's say it is architecture. The book is written by an expert with engaging photographs, charts and maps. From time to time you indulge yourself. A good MOOC is similar, different and better. Online you have an expert who leads the course. The introduce themselves, the course and perhaps the team. And then over the weeks they drop in to say something with a pre-recorded video piece or text. They may even appear from time to time to contribute to the discussion: though you may miss them if the thread is running into the hundreds. 

I explained how threaded discussions work: that there can be thousands of comments, but you know everyone is talking about the same thing. That if you don't get a point you can ask and someone offers a response. You may still not get it. So you ask again. Once again, there is a response. You may do this a few times. Even come back to it a day or so later, but you are likely, eventually to see something that says it for you - your fellow students have fulfilled the role of the tutor that a tutor could never manage: they only have one voice and they can't give up the huge number of hours - there is one thread in 'Start Writing Fiction' that runs to 7400 posts.

These are filtered in three useful ways: activity, following and your comments. In this way you either look only at the lates posts, the posts of those you are following: say 10 out of 23,000 or, of course, you look back at your comments.

It works.

As for my graphic? Does obscuring the writing assist with anything? By making an effort to read the question are you any more likely to remember it?

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How to read a mind

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 12 Dec 2014, 15:03

 How to Read a Mind: The University of Nottingham[Two Weeks] Fig.1. The image I've used for a decade to represent my blogging under the pseudonym 'mind bursts'.

79% Complete

Four activities remaining to complete. A touch more academic than some. I guess this is undergraduate English Literature, but third year. Or is it pitched at postgraduate level. I have had to spend more time with the reading than I expected in order to grasp the main thesis relating to ‘Theory of Mind’. It is proving complementary to ‘Start Writing Fiction’ as it shows how we conceive of, and follow imagined and real characters in a world, in our heads, that is always part factual, part fictional.

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Thoughts on the FutureLearn MOOC platform

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The new world order, not so much the 'flipped classroom' as turned inside out then put through the blender - and brings aspects of education back where it always used to be: part of open human experience rather than locked away and institutionalised.

FutureLearn is worth exploring.

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Completed 'Start Writing Fiction' with The Open University on FutureLearn

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 12 Dec 2014, 07:04
From E-Learning V

Fig.1 Start Writing Fiction

I've been blown away, shaken up, put back together, slapped on the behind, smacked on the back and learnt a huge amount. All I need to do now is spend less time online, and more time writing ... and reading. My blogging days aren't over, but the time devoted to it will be. 

Back to the delights of L.120 L'Ouveture Intermediate French then

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